Cover of Burrowes' The Bridegroom Wore Plaid. A man without a shirt stands behind a woman in a white, long-sleeved dress who has turned her head to look back and down.

The Bridegroom Wore Plaid by Grace Burrowes was published on December 4, 2012. I received an advanced reader copy from Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Summary from Goodreads:

In an effort to preserve the family estate, Ian MacGregor, the Earl of Balfour, must marry for money. When a promising match emerges in the form of Genie Daniels, a rich English heiress, Ian begins devising a strategy to woo her. When he meets Genie’s poor cousin Augusta, he discovers a new avenue to Genie’s heart. But after spending time with Augusta and falling for her charms, Ian begins to question whether or not he’s willing to forfeit his heart to save the family name…

There is A LOT going on in this story.

First, there are a lot of characters:

  • Ian MacGregor, the Earl of Balfour
  • Gilgallon (Ian’s brother)
  • Connor (Ian’s brother)
  • Mary Frances (Ian’s sister)
  • Fiona (Mary Frances’ daughter)
  • Willard Daniels, the Baron of Altsax and Gribbony
  • Miss Eugenia (Genie) Daniels (Altsax and Gribbony’s daughter)
  • Hester Daniels (Genie’s sister)
  • Colonel Matthew Daniels (Genie’s brother)
  • Mrs. Julia Redmond (Genie’s chaperone)
  • Augusta Merrick (Genie’s cousin and chaperone)

Plenty of romance novels have a bunch of characters but this lot felt unruly. In the first quarter or so of the book, I often had to go back and re-read about a character in order to figure out whom they were related to and why they were in the story. It was distracting and frustrating as a reader.

Yet, Burrowes has a reason for all these characters and for making their presence within the book feel suffocating at times: it mirrors how both Ian and Augusta feel as members of these families.

But looking into a pair of earnest violet eyes, Ian realized he had something in common with [Augusta].

She was lonely and alone even among her family. She was more alone with her family around her, in fact.

Ian is looking for a rich wife. Genie’s father, Baron Altsax, is rich and ready to pawn Genie off on Ian. Ian was never supposed to be the Earl — that was to be his older brother, Asher, who took off for Canada and by the time of this story is presumed dead. But Ian can’t shirk his responsibility and so he does what he must.

Augusta is Genie’s impoverished cousin who has a very tense and strained relationship with her uncle, the Baron. She can’t leave his home because she has no where else to go but she hates the man.

Both Ian and Augusta are trapped in a life they didn’t choose and they are unhappy.

And they fall in love very quickly despite the fact that there is no way for them to have a relationship that does not cause grief and suffering for their families.

I appreciate that when Ian comes to Augusta’s room on the pretense of talking about Genie and everything quickly escalates toward them having sex, it is Augusta who articulates what them being together that night will mean:

“If we do this,” she took up the thought, “it can’t mean anything but some comfort stolen against the circumstances. It can’t lead to anything. It can’t mean anything, whether you marry Genie or some other woman.”

It is Ian who hesitates and Augusta who won’t hear it. She loves him, she wants to have sex with him, she understands the consequences and the larger context, and she just doesn’t care. Rock on, lady.

The entire sequence is bittersweet. Ian professes his love to her, they share this intimate night, and then she says to him, “No more words, Ian, except thank you, and I will cherish this memory more than you’ll ever know.”

She is my favorite part of this book.

There are other romance story lines happening in this book at the same time. Julia and Connor. Genie and Gilgallon. Matthew and Mary Frances. I found these to be as sweet as Ian and Augusta’s relationship. At the same time, I am always weary of novels where all these people trapped in a house together just happen to pair up nicely. Too convenient.

Overall, I enjoyed this Burrowes book.

I give The Bridegroom Wore Plaid 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Buy it: AmazonBarnes & NobleBookDepositoryBooks-a-MillionIndie BoundIndigoDiscover a New LoveiBooks

Cover of Burrowes' Lady Eve's Indiscretion. A woman, with her back to us, is standing in front of man whose shirt is removed. She is looking at his chest, he down at her.

Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight by Grace Burrowes. Published October 12, 2012 by Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Lady Eve’s Indiscretion by Grace Burrowes. Will be published on February 1, 2013. I received an advanced reader copy from Sourcesbooks Casablanca.

First, Lady Louisa. Summary from Goodreads:

No one would ever guess that Lady Louisa, the most reserved of the Duke of Moreland’s daughters, had published a book of racy poems under a pseydonym on a dare. Before she can buy and destroy all of the copies, a dastardly fortune hunter seeks to compromise her reputation by revealing her secret identity at a holiday ball.

Before she can be publicly ruined, close family friend Sir Joseph Carrington saves the day by offering to marry Louisa. As he recites poetry to her, waltzes with her by starlight, and showers her with lovely kisses, they both begin to discover that their match may be the best Christmas gift either has ever received…

I love Grace Burrowes. Her first book, Heir, was the first romance novel I ever read. And had I read a lesser romance novel, I might not have decided to read more. Plus, her Virtuoso is one of my most favorite romance novels to date.

But there are times when I find her writing style, which can be wordy, and the character development to be difficult to work through as a reader. I struggled at the beginning of Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight to even figure out what was going on. I felt that perhaps I was supposed to already know something about Sir Joseph from Burrowes’ earlier books in the series. I was re-reading sentences or passages to see if I could make better sense of their interactions or even the physical scene itself.

This struggle through the beginning stayed with me throughout. Joseph doesn’t think Louisa would stoop so low as to marry him even as she shows interest. Both protagonists have a secret and hide it from the other but, as is true in many romance novels, the secret doesn’t seem so salacious that it must be kept. And yet it is and that creates manufactured drama and stress and anti-climatic moments of revelation.

I have high expectations for Burrowes and I expect to be swept away in her stories. When I’m not, that disappointment feels more acute than with some other authors. Perhaps that is not fair to Burrowes but it is only because when she is great, she is truly great.

I give Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase it:  AmazonBarnes & NobleBookDepositoryBooks-a-MillionIndie BoundIndigoDiscover a New LoveiBooksSony

Next up, Lady Eve. Summary from Goodreads:

To gain leverage in his efforts to get custody of his niece, Lucas Denning, newly minted Marquis of Deene, needs an heir, a fat marriage settlement, and a wife of impressive social standing.

Lady Eve Windham’s bad judgment where men are concerned cost her virtue, her confidence, and—because it also involved a nasty fall from her horse—her love for horses. In a weak moment, Eve is compromised into marriage with the handsome Lord Deene, who asks her to get back on the horse and stake everything on one glorious ride.

I was worried about this one. After Lady Louisa, I thought maybe I was never going to really connect with these characters (and I will say that when Louisa and Joseph show up in this book, I don’t really care for their characters, which makes me wonder if I just don’t like them and that is part of my problem with the previous book. Moving on…).

Deene has played a large role in a previous Burrowes’ novel, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, a book I adored. He and Eve have an easiness to them right from the beginning that stems from Deene’s long time involvement with the Windham family. They have even shared a kiss in the past, something both enjoyed and wish to repeat.

Eve has been hurt badly in the past to the point where she doesn’t want to ever marry and cannot contemplate having sex. As she and Deene begin to fall in love, he is much more open to the idea of marriage and commitment than she is. In the end, it takes a near scandal to land them at the altar. And it was about this time in the book when I began to get into it. Of course, this was the halfway point. But I truly enjoyed the second half of this book.

This encapsulates one of the core elements of the dynamic between Deene and Eve:

Better still, she’d chosen a man who showed her both affection and desire in abundance. That she’d been starving for both was a sobering realization, one that threw into high relief just how contorted she’d allowed her view of herself to become.

The final major plot point is so satisfying. Deene trusts Eve so much and she so needs someone to trust in her. And Deene, fighting his own demons around the tragedy of his sister’s life, needs someone to invest in, someone who needs his support. This isn’t to say that Eve is weak or co-dependent. She is incredibly strong, almost to a fault. When she finally does allow Deene in, it is not a failing but a reflection of her needs, no moralizing necessary.

I give Lady Eve’s Indiscretion 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Pre-order it: Amazon.comBarnes &